This book examines the effects of alcohol on gender relations in traditional Europe, focussing on England, France, and Italy in the late medieval and early modern periods, roughly 1300 to 1700. While alcohol causes physiological changes that are scientifically verifiable, the work of anthropologists reveals that much of what passes for drinking behavior and drunken comportment varies from one society to the next. In traditional Europe, as in modern Western societies, drinking led to increased sexual activity for both men and women, and it inclined men to commit acts of violence. Despite male fears of female sexuality and despite patriarchal restraints, women still consumed alcoholic beverages, sometimes in gargantuan amounts. This widespread consumption of wine, ale, or beer illustrates the importance of alcohol in traditional Europe. Alcohol was the ubiquitous social lubricant, and alcoholic beverages formed an important part of most people's diets.
A. Lynn Martin is Reader in History, The University of Adelaide and Director of the University's Research Centre for History of Food and Drink.